Do you feel bullied? Or would you like to help someone who feels bullied?

Problems and conflicts can arise in any working environment. It is important to address these situations and find lasting solutions. In a conflict situation, it is helpful to get support at an early stage to make sure that things do not escalate. It is often not clear whether bullying is taking place. There is no uniform, internationally accepted definition of bullying. The following article should  help the employees of the MPG to assess whether bullying is taking place and whom they can contact in such a situation.

What is bullying?

Bullying refers to repeated and persistent negative actions directed against one or more persons and which create a hostile working atmosphere. In a bullying situation, those concerned have difficulty defending themselves.

A distinction should be made between bullying and isolated incidents of non-permanent misconduct by colleagues or superiors. Not every behavioural flaw falls under misconduct (see Conflicts). However, it is also important to address individual behavioural flaws and conflicts and to resolve them in a sustainable manner so that no systematic misconduct can develop from them.

It must be assessed on a case-by-case basis whether bullying is taking place. Bullying is a form of persistent, uncooperative behaviour by individuals or groups. It is considered social misconduct.

What do I do in the case of bullying? Who can I turn to? How can I report suspected bullying?​

If empolyess of the Max Planck Society suspect that they are being bullied or would like to help another person who is being bullied, there are several options:​

  • Speak with your superiors about this.
  • If you believe that your superior is involved in bullying, contact the local counselling and reporting units at your Institute.
  • If, for any reason, you do not wish to do so, as an employee of the Max Planck Society please contact the central reporting unit of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Information on the central reporting units can be found under “non-scientific misconduct”.
  • Institutes or facilities may have a works agreement or other regulations on social behaviour. This regulates the procedure in cases of uncooperative behaviour. If this is not clear employess might ask their Works Council and/or Head of Administration.

For managers

Bullying should not be ignored. Preventive measures that can be taken to avoid bullying include that managers:

  • ensure that contact persons for conflicts are clearly posted at central locations and that links to the information are provided on the website of the Institute or facility.​
  • undergo further training (e.g. through seminars on topics such as conducting appraisal interviews or conflict management). The Planck Academy offers a wide range of courses for this purpose..
  • discussing the conclusion of a works agreement or an internal code of conduct on social interaction (if there isn’t already one) with the Institute leadership. In July 2021, a new template works agreement "Collegial Behaviour" (see link to OHB on the right) was created that can be adapted to the individual institute. This template is based on examples at MPIs that have had good experiences with similar structures. If such an agreement already exists, make sure it is easily readable and accessible. 
  • should - if they do not already exist - work together with other institute managers to introduce a company agreement or an institute-internal code of conduct on social interaction. Employees of the Max Planck Society can view a new sample company agreement "Collegial Conduct" on the intranet. If agreements already exist, it should be ensured that they are easily readable and accessible. 
  • should hold regular annual meetings with employees to identify and address conflicts as early as possible.
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